Sunday, September 24, 2006

Godzilla vs Chilliwack vs The Squealing Pigmobile

Well, Dear Friends, my presentation was duly delivered on Thursday and I live to tell the tale. I was rather petrified to start with - I always am, even though I've had a fair amount of experience doing these sort of things. However, I neither crashed, nor burned, nor was forced to resort to the Parrot Sketch (though I did stick a Dr Evil picture up on one PowerPoint slide). The audience seemed to appreciate my talk, though I always find it hard to judge these matters. As far as I can tell, no-one nodded off, and a few came up afterwards to complement me. Best of all, I was the first speaker, so after my ordeal I was at liberty to enjoy the rest of the conference, free of fret.

I say "enjoy," but truth be told the subject matter didn't lend itself much to that. The two days were replete with words and phrases like "stochastic," "transfer pricing," "yield curve," "hard landing," and "risk-adjusted return on economic capital." Dry stuff indeed. What I did enjoy, however, was the schmoozing. I always enjoy the opportunity at these things to meet new folks, and most of the attendees were rather friendly. Indeed, they had converged on Vancouver from all over the province of British Columbia, and some I found hard to believe were in the banking business. At dinner on Thursday I sat next to one chap who looked and sounded like he should be out sawing logs rather than sorting out finances. In fact, I couldn't help but wonder whether, clad in jeans and a plaid shirt, he was an ex-member of BC's premier soft power rock gods, Chilliwack (Watch the video! Gasp in awe!! Admire the mullets!!!). Actually, everyone I met was refreshingly down-to-earth and I learned scads about my adopted province. Did you know the downtown of Smithers in Bulkley Valley is done up in an alpine theme to honour the Swiss immigrants who settled in this mountainous region during the early 1900s? Neither did I.

The conference was held at a downtown Vancouver business hotel, identical to the many others of its ilk I stayed in around he world when I worked in London (a lifetime ago in my mind, a mere eighteen months ago in real time). Same floorplan, same bed, same TV, same everything. Comfortable, well appointed, homogenized. Whenever I stayed in one I would always open the curtains and press myself against the glass, scanning the cityscape to remind myself where I was. Sometimes, even when faced with the Eiffel Tower or the Acropolis, I would need to remind myself it was real, and not something projected onto a huge screen.

This time, however, I didn't need to look out the window. I was rushing to unpack in time to make an evening reception and opened a drawer to put away my clothes. There, nestled next to the ubiquitous Gideon's Bible, was an orange-jacketed book entitled "The Teachings of Buddha," placed there courtesy of the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism. Only in Vancouver, I thought to myself.

The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God (buy here)
Shane's last real coherent outing with the group. Dedicated here to Mentok on the occasion of the nifty relaunch of his multifaceted blog.

While making my way back to my room after Thursday's session, I saw several score Asian men wearing military uniforms. I couldn't readily discern their provenance, though the fact that some had patches relating to American aircraft meant that they were unlikely to be Chinese. I got into the lift and was joined by about a dozen of them. After listening to their banter, I still could not determine their nationality, but my curiosity had been piqued. So after sprucing myself up I went back down to the lobby to sort out a logistical matter with the concierge. I asked him if he knew who all the soldiers were, and he told me that they were Japanese Self Defence Force troops enjoying a bit of rest & relaxation after a training exercise across the border in Yakima, Washington. I fear childhood memories of Saturday afternoons watching old Toho Studios monster movies came flooding back, and I had visions of the soldiers sweeping across the training fields of Fort Lewis towards a roaring, rubbery Godzilla...

Mikabomb - Contact Tokyo (buy here)
"Better change your underpants / 'cause you might need an ambulance." Howzat for an opening line from this London-based, trashy glam buzzsaw garage band fronted by the lovely Mika Handa.?? They suffered a bit of a setback lost year when drummer Ergi lost his legs due to complications from septicaemia, but Mikabomb are on the way back - promise!!

Finally tonight, an update on my skid in the Squealing Pigmobile. You may recall from previous posts that this vehicle is actually my Dearest Father-In-Law's second car, which he graciously allows me to use when Dearest Wife has dibs on our own car (which is most of the time). Anyway, I got a call from him at work on Wednesday afternoon after Dearest Wife had relayed to him my little adventure. "I should have told you," he said, "it does that." Apparently Pigmobile is rear-wheel drive and front-heavy, which makes it prone to swishing its tail in the wet, especially when pushed. Of course this made me real confident about driving the brute later on that evening in torrential rain to the hotel downtown. But as you can see, I made it there and back, though I did drive like a petrified granny. Since then Dearest Pa-In-Law has fitted the Pigmobile with four spiffy, hi-tech, Finnish tyres that should, no matter what the conditions, glue it to the tarmac and keep its arse on the straight & narrow. Still, I'm taking my skid's lessons to heart and will henceforth continue to drive more like a granny.

Catatonia - Road Rage (buy here)
Ah, Cerys Matthews, how your voice moves me. I'm glad to see you seem to be doing much better these days. I hope the solo tour goes well.